Keywords: Fertilisers, Environmental management.
In addition to being used for agriculture, a proportion of the land area in all countries is used for housing, transport (road and rail), for industry (factories) and for activities such as mineral extraction and waste disposal. There are also areas of public open space and parkland, often associated with urban concentrations, which can be used for recreational purposes, be that organised sports e.g. soccer, hockey or golf, or as areas for walking and general exercise. In many countries there are also large areas of woodland, both in the form of large organised plantations and as small copses. Both make a significant impact on the landscape and can frequently contribute to the enjoyment of the rural environment by the population though the provision of public access and alternative habitats for wildlife.
In addition to these forms of land use which specifically exclude agriculture, there are also areas used for the less intensive forms of agriculture, where grasslands and rough grazings are used by farmers to provide feed for livestock, but which are not aggressively managed for agriculture. In these areas, the land is perceived to have both agricultural and amenity value, providing for public access, nature and game conservation and sporting interests.
In the alternative land uses mentioned above, most of which involve the purposeful management of vegetation, the yield and quality of the product may be of little or no consequence as the primary objective is not to increase food production but to provide an ‘environmental product’ which can be enjoyed by the public at large. Even where agricultural and conservation interests overlap, the preservation of the countryside or of some component within it may often be regarded as more important than the agricultural output.
In some instances, land will be managed with the principal emphasis on environmental interests because the area concerned is already recognised to be of particular value from a conservation point of view and is thought worthy of preservation to prevent any loss or degradation of the habitat. In other instances, non agricultural management may be considered in order to change the current use of an area of land towards an environmentally more acceptable use, e.g. from a waste disposal site to an area of attractive public open space, or from intensively managed farmland to a golf course, or from an opencast mine site to species rich pasture or meadow land.
Environmental interests may be considered or expressed at a number of levels. For example, there are regions in the UK such as the Lake District in Cumbria which are valued as spectacular landscapes within which the mosaic of natural moorland vegetation and fertile in-bye pastures play an important part. Similarly the wetlands of the East Anglian Fens or the valleys and moors of the Pennine
Dales provide examples of landscapes which are judged to be worthy of conservation. In each of these examples, the vegetation is one important component of a system which is valued in its totality and its management is important as part of the total system. At a more local level, there are specific fields or specific woodlands which may be valued in conservation terms because they provide rare examples of habitats for a particular species of plant, or bird or animal. Equally, there are local habitats which are valued, not because they support one extremely rare species, but because of the enormous diversity and richness of plant, insect, bird and animal life which they support.
Given the multiplicity of possible Ã¢â‚¬Å“non agriculturalÃ¢â‚¬Â end uses and environmental objectives mentioned above, it is vital that the objectives for a particular area are clearly defined and that the relative importance of the different interests are clearly established if management guidelines, including fertiliser recommendations, are to be developed. In many such systems, the application of fertilisers will have important implications in terms of vegetation management. In this relatively short presentation, it is only possible to use a number of practical examples which consider the role of fertilisers in particular situations where the principal objective is not agricultural but environmental. Having done so, an attempt will be made to arrive at some general guidelines which might apply to all such situations.
A Younger, Department of Agriculture, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
19 pages, 2 figures, 8 tables, 16 refs.